Airport officials face hundreds of angry residents

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Senior spokespeople from Gatwick Airport and the aviation industry faced hundreds of angry residents at the second annual meeting of an airport protest group at Warnham village hall on Friday.

CAGNE (Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions) is the West Sussex and Surrey lobby group that shares information with communities that are affected by aircraft noise from flight paths and the potential impact of a second runway at Gatwick Airport.

The aviation industry spokespeople included representatives from Gatwick Airport, its independent Arrivals Review team, the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS, which operates air traffic control.

During the meeting Bo Redeborn, who headed up the Arrivals Review, confirmed that CAGNE was right that the Gatwick Airport review had not considered departures when suggesting changes to arrivals.

The formal procedure of the AGM was conducted quickly with Sally Pavey being re-elected as chairman of CAGNE and the committee members being re-appointed by the audience, all unanimously.

Speaker Phil Roberts of the Civil Aviation Authority said that the CAA is the body tasked with ensuring that the aviation industry meets the highest safety standards and that drives improvements in airlines’ and airports’ environmental performance.

Mr Roberts detailed the role of the CAA and how residents could get involved in the current CAA consultation which can be viewed at consultations.caa.co.uk and said that the CAA is seeking transparency in airspace changes. He also detailed how such changes in one area impact airspaces in other areas, and that the way forward was PRNAV or PBN (aircraft navigation by ‘satnav’) on arrivals.

Sally Pavey said later: “Both of these technologies result in concentrated flight paths against which CAGNE is lobbying. CAGNE’s appeal is for the exact opposite - dispersed flights – in order to achieve fair and equitable distribution of noise. Sadly the Government body defines ‘dispersal’ as a ‘multitude of concentrated routes’ and not as we knew it.

“This is because their policy is ‘concentration’ and ‘to save CO2 (fuel)’”.

Dave Curtis of the National Air Traffic Service (NATS), which is the UK’s largest provider of air traffic control services, explained how airspace works. In answer to a resident’s question, he said that villages are not shown on air traffic controllers’ screens but that aircraft and the volume of movements tend to dictate airspace routing guidance given to pilots. Mr Curtis added that the LAMP (London Airspace Management Programme) document to modernise airspace, which was put on hold in 2014 as it pitched communities against each other with proposed new routes outside of the NPRs (Noise Preferential Routes) and which CAGNE battled to stop, will return in 2023/24.

Vicki Hughes of Gatwick Airport, who was accompanied by Bo Redeborn, the leader of Gatwick’s Arrivals Review team, said that she had just joined Gatwick to deal with feedback on the Arrivals Review and would be hosting a public meeting on April 26 and residents should email her via arrivalreview@gatwickairport.com; the final report being published on May 31.

Jeremy Quin, MP for Horsham, speaking from the floor, advised Mr Redeborn that he would be meeting with Gatwick Airport soon to discuss the Arrivals Review and that he hoped that departures and their associated problems would be addressed.

In a question and answer session, two members of the public challenged the CAA over noise metrics, claiming that that they are out of date.

Sally Pavey, chairman of the meeting, stressed that the ambient noise in the countryside is much lower than in urban areas and so each low-flying aircraft is an ‘event’.

Other residents made it clear that sleep deprivation is a major concern for their families and that this is affecting their health and quality of life with departures as well as arrivals.

A Warnham resident asked if there were any plans to move flights from the westerly Dorking route (LAM 26) and place them over West Sussex and Warnham. The CAA and NATS both confirmed that this was not the case and would not happen.

Another Warnham resident Michael Brookes said after the meeting: “The speakers must have left feeling the communities’ intense anger and frustration and their high level of mistrust at the whole issue of airspace changes. The meeting will have shown to them that it is not just one or two CAGNE committee members who are unhappy but the great swathe of inhabitants of the West Sussex and Surrey who CAGNE seek to protect.”